03 December 2006

Stubbornness or resolve

There's a line of argument against withdrawl from Iraq that goes like this:
Whether or not you think the invasion was a good idea, or that things are “going well” in Iraq is irrelevant. What matters is that if we leave now, we will be giving the bad guys what they want. We cannot reward their actions in this way, as it will show others in the world that you can fight the US and win. Sending that message will only make us more vulnerable.
Via DeLong, I learn that Daniel Davies at Crooked Timber has laid the smackdown on this reasoning with a mix of common sense and game theory. It's an interesting post, but if you ask me, most of the work is already done when he just clearly restates the argument.

The idea is that the war is costing huge amounts of money and lives with no real prospect of success and a distinct danger that it is making things much worse. However, to do the logical thing would send the signal to our enemies that we will give up if fought to a pointless bloody standstill. Therefore, for strategic reasons, we must redouble our efforts, in order to send the signal to our enemies that we will fight implacably and mindlessly in any battle we happen to get into, forever, in order to dissuade them from attacking us in the first place.
As I've said before, I believe that this is a mis-learned lesson from the Vietnam war, and President Bush himself has said that he he believes this faulty reasoning.


Anonymous said...


Its probably worth noting that OBL predicted that America would withdrawl once the casualty count got too high.

Jonathan Korman said...

True. And it's high time that we got out of the business of confirming his predictions.

However, on this point he's got us coming and going, since he has also predicted that the US will seek a long-term military occupation of Iraq. So in this respect, we face a no-win situation.